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Central Coast cities considered at 'moderate' risk for financial distress in State Auditor's rankings

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Posted at 2:54 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 17:54:37-04

California's auditor says 18 of the state's cities are "fiscally challenged."

Elaine Howle on Thursday released a ranking of the financial health of 471 California cities. Of those, 18 cities were high risk for financial problems, 236 were moderate risk and 217 were low risk.

Of the high risk cities, Compton was ranked No. 1:

  1. Compton
  2. Atwater
  3. Blythe
  4. Lindsay
  5. Calexico
  6. San Fernando
  7. El Cerrito
  8. San Gabriel
  9. Maywood
  10. Monrovia
  11. Vernon
  12. Richmond
  13. Oakland
  14. Ione
  15. Del Rey Oaks
  16. Marysville
  17. West Covina
  18. La Habra

The auditor's office used 10 indicators to rank the cities, including whether the city has enough money to pay its bills, how much debt it has, how much money is in reserves, and if the city can pay its retirement benefits.

Of the 471 cities, Howle said 337 were not setting aside enough money to pay retirement health and dental benefits for their employees.

The rankings are based primarily on financial data as of June 2017, so the results may not necessarily reflect a city's current budget status.

In San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, six cities are considered low risk, according to the State Auditor's rankings - Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Buellton, Solvang, Goleta, and Carpinteria.

Nine cities fall in the moderate range - Atascadero, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Guadalupe, Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Santa Barbara.

While considered at moderate risk for financial problems, according to the rankings, Lompoc and Guadalupe were the highest on the list among local cities, at 47 and 48 respectively.

Guadalupe has been struggling with budget issues for the past few years, and Lompoc's city council declared a fiscal emergency this September. In March, Lompoc residents will vote on a 1% sales tax measure which city leaders hope will help fill a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Also falling in the top 100 on the list are Santa Barbara at 87 and San Luis Obispo at 93.

To see the full results, visit the California State Auditor's Local Government High-Risk Dashboard.